Wake Up Weekend Videos Now Online

Calvin College has posted the videos from this winter’s “Wake Up Weekend”–an annual celebration of animal advocacy–online. They are very much worth watching for anyone wanting to learn more about animal rights, animal advocacy, veganism, and factory farming.

The following video–just one of many–is of Nekeisha Alexis-Baker’s talk on “Speciesim, Sexism, and Racism: The Intertwining Oppressions.” We wrote about her talk over the winter and were quite impressed by it:

Cornel West at Calvin College

Unfortunately, I missed Cornel West when he spoke recently at Calvin College. However, the college has made the audio of his lecture–“Hope on a Tightrope”–available online. Few people can discuss the realities of white supremacy, the need for resistance, and the importance of hope like West, so it’s highly worth listening.

Download the file

Speakers Deliver Compelling Talk on Race and Gender and their Relationship to Animal Advocacy

Vegan Speakers on Race and Gender at Calvin Animal Rights Event

Friday and Saturday, Calvin College held their third annual Wake Up Weekend! event hosted by the College’s Philosophy Department and a variety of student groups. The weekend featured a number of speakers addressing animal advocacy issues, including oft-neglected issues of race and gender and how those topics relate to animal rights. While the vegan brunch and chili cook-off was great, this talk was the highlight of the weekend for me!

Thinking and Eating at the Same Time: Reflections of a Sista Vegan

Michelle Lloyd-Page, Dean for Multicultural Affairs at Calvin College, shared stories of what it means to “eat like a vegan” as an African-American woman, and the stumbling blocks and victories she has faced in her own community and family.

Living in Muskegon Heights, a predominately Black community, Lloyd-Page spoke of not only the availability of vegan food and organic produce, but also what it means to make the choice of rejecting meat and dairy products. She explained that for many low income African-American families, like those in her neighborhood, being able to work enough to afford such a luxury as chicken, is a large step. When many families see this as a luxury, telling them what they can and can’t have is an action directly tied to race, privilege, and education.

She went on to explain that people of color often make the assumption that becoming vegan is just as simple as cutting something out of your diet and then replacing it with vegetables and other healthier plant-based alternatives. The problem with this approach, she has learned through experience, is that you are taking away their perceived “staples” and long-standing traditions associated with them such as various Soul Food dishes. This is problematic for white people to not only think it’s only a matter of simplicity associated with a vegan lifestyle, but also to deny the strong cultural and identity ties to meat eating, as well as saying “I’m telling you what you can and can not eat”, when African-Americans have been told that by white people for generations.

Beyond cultural associations to meat, Lloyd-Page also talked about what it means for her and how it feels to be a Black woman and be vegan. For example, popular conceptions of veganism almost always exclude people of color. She explained that if this movement wants to reach out to other people, we have to have these conversations about race and even gender, otherwise it will stay white. In turn, she spoke about her own experiences in her community of being accused of trying to be white, be better than everyone else, be perfect, and leaving her own traditions and roots – something that most white vegans may have not even considered before.

While race is often ignored by the animal rights movement, Lloyd-Page spoke with insistency that our approaches in engaging in conversations about veganism have to be careful but can be done successfully. She explained that we have a problem when “white college kids will save a chicken, but not a starving child.”

For example, telling someone they should eat something outlandish that they have never heard of and can’t find in their neighborhood, might not be as good of an approach as making traditional recipes vegan and talking about the many health benefits of becoming vegan.

Lloyd-Page concluded her portion of the panel by explaining that all oppressions are linked together and that we cannot just fight animal cruelty alone, we have to fight them all or else we are not acknowledging their connections, thus allowing them to continue.

“Speciesism, Sexism, and Racism: The Intertwining Oppressions”

The second panelist, Nekeisha Alexis-Baker, recent graduate of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary and co-founder of Jesus Radicals, was segued nicely by Lloyd-Page’s closing remarks on the importance of recognizing the interconnectedness of the oppression of people and animals.

Alexis-Baker began her presentation by showing a projected picture of herself smiling and holding a baby raccoon, Edward, she had rescued and became friends with. She told of her own experience with Edward as teaching her how we treat non-human animals and what that implies of our society in general. She discussed the ideologies of racism, sexism, and speciesism, and how they all use a process of “othering” which not only allows for the mistreatment of animals and humans, but makes this classification socially acceptable.

During this discussion–through the lens of slavery–Alexis-Baker went on to incorporate the mistreatment of women as well. Through images she explained the level of desensitization our culture has adopted when it comes to cruelty, the many forms it takes and ways it is carried out, the legacy of the past, and how that has allowed us to glorify this mistreatment.

An example that was discussed was the comparison of African-American slaves to cattle. She explained the acceptability of shackling, branding, whipping, and breeding slaves was due to the fact that they were seen as the equivalent of cattle–solely raised for consumption by white people, particularly white males. This is especially true in the case of lactating Black women who continued to be wet due to nursing their own children and being forced to feed their “master’s” children as well. Alexis-Baker strongly stated that here there was no difference in the status of a Black woman, nor the status of a cow, because clearly they were both being bred and used to be subservient to their “master”.

In addition to this cattle/slave relationship, she also highlighted the fact that this “situation”, if it could even be simplified as such, of people of color who have been dominated by white men, could not even be considered oppression at the time, because only humans can be oppressed, and the status of a slave was below that–it was one of a non-human animal.

The link between slavery and the mistreatment of non-white humans today, to the mistreatment of animals was explained wonderfully and described in the most “easy to understand” terms when Alexis-Baker said, “They are desired, dismembered, and devoured, both figuratively and literally” they are both “…valuable in satisfying the male” as well as being “interchangeable bodies between non-human animals and women, both being objects.”

Sexism and Speciesism

She explained how this touches almost everything in our culture, even to the point of being incorporated in to the well intentioned animal rights movement at times. An example of this was a projected picture of a scantily, if not naked, clad woman in a suggestive pose with cuts of meat drawn all over her body.

The image, put out by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), was intended to invoke shock to the viewer by comparing the consumption and dismembering of animals and its acceptability, to the unacceptability of a person being treated in the same manner. While the intentions may have been good, in the end PETA chose to portray a young, thin, white woman to seduce the viewer into understanding their message.

Alexis-Baker emphasized the problems behind not noticing the intertwining of oppressions. In this situation women were being oppressed, while animals were trying to be freed. Her conclusion, along with Lloyd-Page’s, was that no one is free when others are oppressed. For Alexis-Baker, this means realizing that being vegan is one way to deal with these oppressions, and that as a Black woman, she has no choice but to strive for a liberation that involves everyone.

Annual Calvin College Animal Advocacy Event Planned

For the past couple of winters, one of my favorite things to happen in Grand Rapids has been Calvin College’s Wake Up Weekend event promoting animal rights, awareness, and advocacy. In the past, I’ve covered the event for MediaMouse.org, learned a lot, and enjoyed some great food.

The full schedule and announcement for the 2009 event follows:

Wake Up Weekend Animal Rights Event at Calvin College


*All events are free and open to the public (excluding the all-you-can-eat Saturday brunch, which is just $10.00 per person at the door). Donations to defray costs are cheerfully accepted. Questions? Write to wakeupweekend@gmail.com.

Our annual two-day celebration of animal-friendly food, art, education, and advocacy brought to you by Animals & Society Institute, Brick Road Pizza Company, ExtraVEGANza!, G-Rad, Not One Sparrow, Oven Mitt Bakery, and Students for Compassionate Living.


2:30 pm–Animal Advocacy: What, Why, Who, and How?

Commons Annex Lecture Hall, Calvin College

Stay on the cutting edge of the movement by learning from the people who are making it happen. From rights to welfare, from religion to politics, from the laws of the heart to the laws of the land, from grassroots to goliath, our nationally recognized panelists know the score. Join us for this workshop and you will too!

Harold Brown (President, Farm Kind, Hector, NY)

Ben DeVries (Founder, Not One Sparrow, Kenosha, WI)

Adam Durand (Campaign Director, Animal Rights International, Rochester, NY)

Bee Friedlander (Managing Director, Animals and Society Institute, Ann Arbor, MI)

Nathan Runkle (Executive Director, Mercy for Animals, Columbus, OH and Chicago, IL)

5:30 pm–“Compassionate Comestibles” Vegan Potluck*

Commons Annex Lecture Hall, Calvin College

*Hosted by Students for Compassionate Living

At an event where omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans are coming together in fellowship, a vegan bill of fare insures that everyone can enjoy what’s on the menu! What’s your favorite vegan recipe? Bring a dish to share and find out where others come down on this appetizing question! Need a few ideas? Vegan Yum Yum and Post Punk Kitchen never disappoint.

***Please help us to reduce waste and carbon emissions by bringing your own washable or recyclable dinnerware*** and perhaps an extra setting or two for our out-of-town guests and last-minute participants; a limited number of recyclables will be on hand for those without table service.

7:30 pm–Film Festival

Bytwerk Video Theater, DeVos Communications Center, Calvin College

Eating Mercifully

Fowl Play (A Film By Adam Durand)

Two great films by two great directors, one of whom–Adam Durand–will be on hand to introduce his work and take questions after the screening. Did you know that the idea for “Fowl Play” was hatched at Wake Up Weekend 2007 and that the original first-cut of the film was edited here in Grand Rapids for our sneak preview screening at Wake Up Weekend 2008? Now in 2009, the final version has been nominated for Best Documentary in a national film festival in Hollywood, but YOU get to see it first right here in Grand Rapids. Look for special mention of Wake Up Weekend in the credits!


11:00 am–Vegan Brunch at Brick Road Pizza

Tofu scramble, french toast sticks, vegan fried chikn, and all your favorite specialty pizzas and salads are on the menu at this $10.00 all-you-can-eat vegan juggernaut that Chef Ryan promises will be a day to remember! Whether you’re a Wake-up-Weekender or just a hungry Grand Rapidian, come on out! Everyone is welcome!

1:30–Spotlight Session: Animal Advocacy and Religion

(106), 106 S. Division, Grand Rapids

“Not One Sparrow is Forgotten: A Simply Christian Animal Advocacy”

Ben DeVries (Founder, Not One Sparrow)

3:00 pm–Panel: Animal Exploitation and Questions of Race and Gender

(106), 106 S. Division, Grand Rapids

“Thinking and Eating at the Same Time: Reflections of a Sista Vegan”

Michelle Loyd-Paige (Dean for Multicultural Affairs, Calvin College)

“Speciesism, Sexism, and Racism: The Intertwining Oppressions”

Nekeisha Alexis-Baker (Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary; Co-Founder, Jesus Radicals)

7:00 pm–Vegan Chili Cook-Off and Print Sale Benefit

(106), 106 S. Division, Grand Rapids

You know the drill on this one: Best. Vegan. Chili. Ever. (Made by YOU, if you’ve got the guts to compete, anyway.) Add vegan cornbread lovingly prepared by Oven Mitt Bakery, and a print sale that puts the artwork of Wake Up Weekend within everyone’s reach, and you simply can’t say no! Come on out and help us raise a few dollars for our participating animal charities, and we can show the world that compassion is recession-proof!

*If you plan to enter a chili into competition, please send an e-mail to wakeupweekend@gmail.com ASAP to request a registration form. Last year, we were a bit light on chili (and a bit heavy on chili-eaters), so let’s anticipate another big turnout and get as many of you to put your culinary prowess on display as possible!

See you at Wake Up Weekend 2009!

Author Sandra Steingraber Discusses Links between Cancer and the Environment

Author Sandra Steingraber Discusses Cancer and the Environment

What relationship does environmental contamination have to human cancer?

To address that question, Calivn Colleges January Series turned to author and biologist Sandra Steingraber. Steingraber is a cancer survivor and it was her contracting of cancer that led her to investigate the causes of that cancer. Her investigation has led her to write several books on cancer and its links to environmental contamination. She has also become an outspoken critic of policies that destroy ecosystems.

Steingraber began her talk by sharing her personal story of being diagnosed with cancer while she was an undergraduate student in college. Over the past 30 years she has lived with a sense of uncertainty, since she undergoes constant testing to see if her cancer has resurfaced or mutated in another form. The former of cancer that Steingraber contracted was bladder cancer, one of the most common forms.

Cancer and the Environment

In her early interactions with the medical community, she discovered that there was little to no interest in environmental issues as it relates to cancer. She noticed that none of the literature in her doctor’s office addressed environmental issues related to cancer. The medical establishment was only interested in her “medical history.”

In her research for her first book, Living Downstream: A Scientist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment, she discovered that the watershed and river near to wear she grew up in Illinois had high levels of toxins.

She also addressed the relationship between the crumbling economy and destruction of the environment. She gives the example of how pollination by bees has been impacted because of environmental contamination, a contamination that has resulted in less pollination, which leads to less food crop production.

She then presented the audience the idea of what would happen if the same urgency that the US now seems to be devoting to the economic collapse–was applied to the ecological catastrophe we now face. She cites mammal extinction increases, ocean pollution, air pollution, and climate change as proof of this catastrophe. What if politicians were presented with this information and they devoted a great deal of energy and money to reversing negative environmental trends? This Steingraber says, is not likely to happen.

Chemicals in Children

Once Steingraber became a mother, this awareness of the delicacy has increased and she now sees environmental justice as a human rights issue. Steingraber believes that an environmental human rights movement must come together and must confront the current human suffering that is directly tied to the destruction of the environment. How this happens is no easy task.

Steingraber mentioned that even with all the knowledge we have of the negative consequences of chemical contamination, only 5 of the 80,000 chemicals that are licensed in the US have ever been banned. She said that research now shows that there are typically over 200 chemicals that can be detected in the umbilical cord of pregnant women. Steingraber says this reality should force us to rethink what “pro-life” really means.

After birth, Steingraber says that some pollutants impact the respiratory systems of children and even cause early pubescence with US girls, the consequence of which lead to an increase of breast cancer when those girls grow up.

Building an Environmental Human Rights Movement

Steingraber believes that chemical reform will be a large part of this new environmental human rights movement. She says that because of feminism, she has had the opportunity to link her personal cancer to environmental destruction, unlike Rachel Carson, who wrote the groundbreaking book Silent Spring. Carson also had cancer, but was not able to publicly link her cancer to chemical contamination since her body was not an acceptable source in the academic world in the late 1950s.

She gave other historical examples of how social movements have made significant progress to radically change the world. Steingraber focused on the US abolition movement as an example and asked the audience if they could image what it was like to have legal slavery and how the US economy benefited from that. She hopes that an environmental human rights movement will make such a change wherein future generations could never imagine how companies can profit off contamination of the planet.

Protest Demands “Fair Food” at Subway

On Saturday, Calvin College’s Social Justice Committee held a protest outside of the Eastown Subway to urge the company pressure tomato growers to pay a higher wage for tomatoes used by the chain.


On Saturday, Calvin College’s Social Justice Coalition organized a protest outside of the Subway in Eastown to urge the company to take a stand in support of higher wages for farm workers.

Subway is the latest target of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW)–a farm worker organization out of Florida that has an impressive record of winning concrete gains for farm workers. Subway is the latest target of the group, which has already won victories against Taco Bell, McDonalds, and Burger King. Subway is a major purchaser of tomatoes from Florida and as such, the CIW is calling on the company to demand higher wages and better working conditions. Currently, farmworkers picking tomatoes sold to Subway earn an average of $10,000/year and are paid virtually the same piece rate (40-50c per 32-lb. bucket) as they were in 1978.

Throughout the CIW’s history, college students such as Calvin College’s Social Justice Coalition have played a key role in the organizing by acting in solidarity with the CIW, as they are one of the target demographics for fast food companies.

Photos from the protest (with faces blurred in accordance with MediaMouse.org’s photo policy):




There is a long history of student organizing in solidarity with the CIW in Grand Rapids, including a protest last year at Burger King organized by the same Calvin group. The now defunct Grand Valley State University Students Against Sweatshops also organized for several years against Taco Bell.

Calvin Kicks Off War Awareness Week with Speaker on War and Propaganda

Yesterday Calvin college communications professor Randall Bytwerk kicked off the college’s “War Awareness Week” with a talk on war and propaganda. The talk focused primarily on how propaganda is used to gain public support for war, focusing primarily on examples from World War II.

Calvin College began its War Awareness Week on Monday with a lecture by Communications professor Randall Bytwerk. Some may know Bytwek as the primary person behind an excellent online resource of Nazi and East German propaganda known as the German Propaganda Archive.

Bytwerk began his talk by making the claim that it is surprisingly easy to get people to support war. He said it was particularly easy before modern means of communications, since country leaders rarely had to convince the public on the necessity of war. This has changed in the past hundred years with the advent of radio, TV, the Internet, video, and cell phones. Propaganda comes into play when leaders have to figure out ways to persuade the public to go to war.

The speaker said this is always easier if a country is attacked, but sometimes the belief that a country is being attacked isn’t always clear. Bytwerk gave the example of how the Germans claimed that Poland started WWII and even staged an attack by having German soldiers dress up as Polish troops. He also gave the example of what is called the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, where the US claimed the North Vietnamese attacked one of its naval ships. With the Gulf of Tonkin, Bytwerk said it wasn’t so clear as to what happened, even though declassified US government documents make it pretty clear that this was a fabricated incident used by the Johnson administration in order to escalate the US military campaign in Southeast Asia. The speaker also mentioned the WMD rationale for the US invasion of Iraq, but provided no examples or sources to support his claim.

Professor Bytwerk exclusively used media examples from World War II to support his position on the use of war propaganda. He began by showing part of the Frank Capra series “Why We Fight.” Bytwek said that part of what made that series so effective was its ability to demonize the enemy. Next, he showed a clip from Nazi propaganda on the demonizing of Jews in a German newsreel. Bytwerk stated that what the US was doing during WWII was almost on a par with what the Nazis were doing. He supported this claim by showing an example of a cartoon that aired on US television that demonized the Japanese. Cartoons like this are just one example of how much media was produced in the US that depicted the Japanese in negative ways. In fact, the racist depiction of Japanese was much more dramatic than the depictions of Germans, a point that often gets overlooked in discussions about WWII.

Another technique of war propaganda is to present your country as absolutely right, which quite often means that God is always on “our side.” The speaker said that when things went well for the Germans early on, they didn’t need to emphasize their “rightness,” but when the Germans invaded Russia the war got bogged down. It was at this point that the Nazis began producing more media that showed the importance of the need to keep fighting. He used an example from Nazi propaganda that showed the Germans bombing military targets, while the US and British military bombs German civilians. Bytwerk says the Allied forces did the same thing during WWII and showed the audience a clip from a British film called “Mrs. Miniver.” This movie was about British families who lost loved ones during WWII. The film’s most powerful scene is at a funeral of British civilians killed by the Nazis and the minister proclaims from the pulpit, “all Brits are fighting the war, a war for freedom.” Bytwerk said that Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels raved about this film and used it as a model for effective propaganda.

Next, the speaker looked at what countries do when they are not winning the war. He said they would say things like “If we lose, things will be worse.” The Nazis during the end of the war started showing news footage of dead Germans with the narrator saying this is the result of “Roosevelt’s Christian soldiers.” The more contemporary example is the argument, “if we don’t stop the terrorists over there, we will have another 9/11 here.”

Professor Bytwerk concluded by stating that he wished he had a solution to dealing with war propaganda, but suggested that the other speakers this week would probably provide some answers. The question and answer session was short, but focused exclusively on what is currently happening in the US, particularly with the US government’s use of propaganda in leading the country into war against Iraq. Bytwerk kind of defended the US news media for their role in not questioning the government’s point of view and said that the public needs to seek out other perspectives and sources of information.

Mediamouse.org asked him about his thoughts on the responsibility of US media in holding the government accountable or even demanding that they seek out other sources of information so that the public can make a more informed decision about such critical issues as war. His response again was somewhat in defense of the news media and individual journalists, as he said they need to think about “job security.”

This kind of a response omits the fact that there has been a significant investigation into the role of the news media as it relates to the US war in Iraq. The Center for Public Integrity documented the 935 false claims made by US officials in the months leading up to the war in a report titled “Iraq: The War Card.” The Center for Media and Democracy has also documented how the Pentagon recruited former Generals to be “experts” on network media, and even in the Grand Rapids media. Moreover, the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy (GRIID) has conducted several investigations into TV and newspaper reporting on the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, finding that the media often echoes to the government’s position.

Animal Rights Activist Speaks at Calvin

Last night at Calvin College, renowned animal rights activist Gene Baur spoke on the abuse of animals by industrial agriculture and the need for people to change their relationship to animals.

Last night, Calvin College’s Students for Compassionate Living hosted renowned animal rights activist Gene Baur. Baur, who is a co-founder and president of Farm Sanctuary, delivered a lecture on the treatment of animals by industrial agriculture and the need for a change in how people think about animals.

Much of Baur’s talk focused on changing the relationship between people and animals and moving from seeing animals as food to individuals. Baur used a PowerPoint presentation with pictures of animals in slaughter houses and contrasted those to the rescued animals that live at the two Farm Sanctuary farms. Baur said that once animals are moved from abusive situations, they slowly regain trust and are able to show affection. He made compelling arguments against the abuse of animals and convincingly made the case that industrial agriculture is inherently exploitive.

During his talk, Baur explained some of the many ways in which animals in the United States are abused for food. He said that farm animals are excluded from the federal Animal Welfare Act and that agricultural practices considered “common” are excluded from most state animal cruelty laws. Consequently, “common” practices such as debeaking chickens and confining animals to small cages are rarely considered “cruelty” by law.

On dairy farms, Baur told the audience that animals are forced to give birth each year only to have their calves taken away from them. The female calves are raised to replace the milking cows–which have a “useful” life span of just three to four years–while the male cows are sold for veal.

On poultry farms, meat and egg chickens are both abused. Egg laying chickens are packed into “battery cages” inside warehouses–some containing as many as 100,000 birds–where they are confined to cramped cages where they can barely move. After the hens have outlived their usefulness to the factory farm owners, the so-called “spent hens” are put in grinders and turned into pellets that are fed to other chickens. The meat birds are bred to grow twice as big and twice as fast as normal due to selective breeding and have many problems due to this rapid rate of growth, including skeletal deficiencies. Male chickens born at poultry operations are routinely thrown away because they are not profitable.

Baur also argued that animal agriculture is just plain inefficient. He said that plant based diets use less resources and can support more people. He said that while people occasionally consider the health costs of eating meat–Baur said that the way people in the United States eat is in part responsible for rising healthcare costs–the environmental consequences of animal agriculture often go unconsidered. Baur said that livestock is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions and that it has an important role in land degradation, climate change, air pollution, water shortages, and water pollution. Similarly, as is the case with animal cruelty laws, animal agriculture is exempt from many environmental regulations.

Baur concluded by saying that people can work to improve the treatment of animals by making either a personal choice or getting involved in policy and legislative efforts. He urged the audience to make the personal decision to become vegan, stating that it would make a considerable impact on the treatment of animals. On the policy level, Baur encouraged people to get to know their representatives so that they can more effectively lobby them for legislation that protects animals.

The lecture was also recorded by G-Rad.org and can be listened to online.

“Focus the Nation” Activities Planned at Area Colleges

A nationwide teach-in on global warming will include events at local college campuses as part of a national effort to spur action towards encouraging emission cuts of 80% below current levels by 2050 in order to stop global warming.

focus the nation logo

At the end of the month, a “nationwide teach-in” called “Focus the Nation” is being planned to raise awareness and encourage action on global warming. The teach-ins–which will be held on January 31–are encouraging a move from discussion and fatalism to action on global warming.

In answering the question “Why Now” the campaign says:

“Over the next decade, critical policy decisions will be made with irreversible consequences for the future. Dr. James Hansen, the top US government climate scientist, believes that if we do not stabilize greenhouse gas emissions soon, we may set in motion a process leading to collapse of the West Antarctic and Greenland Ice sheets, events that would raise global sea levels by over 40 feet, inundating many of the world’s major cities. This of course is just one of the myriad potential consequences of human-induced warming, with regional and global impacts ranging from hurricanes of greater intensity and duration, global water shortages, altered patterns of rainfall, drought and flood, massive forest die-back, and large-scale species extinction.

Students today face many important social, economic, and security issues. Global warming however, is unique, in that if we are to reduce the risk of large-scale, irreversible, world-wide damages, then ambitious–and potentially costly–policy solutions must be undertaken within a very compressed time frame. Failure to act soon increases the likelihood of a swing in global temperatures of Ice Age magnitude within our children’s lifetimes, only in the opposite direction. We have a window of time now to create the foundation for a just and sustainable future.”

As an action goal, the campaign is encouraging emission cuts of 80% below current levels by 2050. Legislators, elected officials, and university administrators around the country are being invited to the events.

Here in West Michigan, events are planned on three area campuses:

Aquinas College

01/29/2008: Green Fair

Location: Aquinas College- Wege Student Center (Lower Level)

Time: 11am to 2pm

Cost: Free

As a part of Aquinas College’s Focus the Nation programming, a Green Fair will be held on Tuesday, January 29th in the Wege Student Center. Locally-owned organizations will be on site with information and products for sale, including a local Art Gallery and Metro Health Hospital. All are welcome!

01/30/2008: “2% Solution” Webcast

Location: Aquinas College- Cook Carriage House (Upper Level of the Moose Cafe)

Time: 8pm

Cost: Free

As a part of Aquinas College’s Focus the Nation programming, a showing of the “2% Solution” will be held on Wednesday, January 30th in the upper level of the Cook Carriage House. “2% Solution” is a live, interactive webcast featuring Stephen Schneider, Hunter Lovins, Van Jones and youth climate leaders. All are welcome! Snacks will be provided.

01/31/2008: Local Lunch: Count your Carbons!

Location: Aquinas College- Wege Student Center (Level 2)

Time: 11:30am-1:30pm

Cost: $6.00 (cash only)

As a part of Aquinas College’s Focus the Nation programming, a local meal option will be served in the Wege Student Center on January 31st. Come reduce your carbon footprint, eat healthy food, and learn all about the benefits of eating locally and the dangers of global climate change. All are welcome!

Calvin College

Tuesday, January 29

* Kick-off event: 8:00 PM– Commons Lecture Hall

* View the newly released film King Corn. Good laughs, great film!

Wednesday, January 30

* Re-Gathering: 9:50 AM – Fine Arts Center

* Dr. Elaine Storkey speaking on Climate Change and the Global Poor

* Webcast: 8:00 Science Building 010 — The 2% Solution

* Focus the Nation will stream a free, live, interactive webcast called The 2% SOLUTION. Join Stanford University climate scientist, Stephen Schneider, sustainability expert Hunter Lovins and green jobs pioneer Van Jones and youth climate leaders, for a discussion of global warming solutions. Audiences can weigh in with cell phone voting. Our goal is 10,000 screenings–and a change in the course of history.

* 9:00 PM –Snow Festival on the Commons Lawn–Embrace the Cold (while you can!)

* Snowman contest, snow tunnels, build an igloo and sleep outside

* Free Snow Cones and Hot Chocolate in Johnny’s

Thursday, January 31

* “Teach-in” activities: All day throughout campus (Click here for schedule)

* Chapel : 10 AM Speaker: Peter Illyn, Director of Restoring Eden

* Belly Button Christianity: Reconnecting Faith to the Miracle of Life

* Round Table Discussion: 3:30-5:00 PM — Bunker Interpretive Center

* Institutional Responses to Global Climate Change: What Can Calvin College Do?

* Moderator: Claudia Beversluis, Respondents: Rick Balfour, Phil Beezhold, Janel Curry, Luke Kenbeek, John Witte.

* Panel with Elected Officials: 8:00 PM–Fine Arts Center

* Solutions for Global Climate Change: Ideas from Policymakers

* Participants: Congressman Vern Ehlers, City Commissioner Rosalynn Bliss, and others

* Concert with Anathallo:9:00 PM -Fine Arts Center

* Tickets: $5 with Calvin ID, $10 General Public available at the Box Office

Grand Valley State University

January 31 – 5:00pm – 10:00pm

Grand Valley’s Student Environmental Coalition brings you:

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS for “Focus the Nation” at GVSU

* 5-6PM: Local Business Fair and Food Reception

* 6-7:30PM: Panel Discussion

* 7:30-9:00: Showing of “The 11th Hour”

* 9:00-10:00: Discussion about movie

In the next few years, we as a nation will make, or fail to make, critical decisions regarding global warming pollution and clean technology investments. These decisions will have far-reaching and irreversible impacts on the lives of today’s students and the lives of their children. At this moment in time, we owe our young people at least a day of focused discussion about global warming solutions for America.

Focus the Nation is an opportunity for university faculty members to hold a discussion with their students on how global climate change not only affects the world at large, but how their professional discipline is interrelated with this issue. The idea is to spark conversation and critical thinking amongst students, faculty and their communities in the hopes of increasing their knowledge of this topic.

Following the classroom discussions we hope that students will join faculty and local community members in a culmination of the day’s events at a panel discussion and movie screening of The 11th Hour.

Currently over 1000 institutions, mostly colleges and universities have signed on to participate, and dozens of college and university Presidents have endorsed the initiative.

For additional information on Focus the Nation and “The 11th Hour,” please visit these sites: http://www.focusthenation.org/ and http://wip.warnerbros.com/11thhour/

Speakers address a variety of issues during Calvin Animal Rights Forum

On Friday, four speakers from four different national animal rights groups gave talks at Calvin about animal rights activism and organizing as part of the Wake Up Weekend focusing on veganism and animal rights.

This was a collaborative event with Calvin Students for Compassionate Living, G-Rad, Farms Without Harm, Grand Rapids for Animals, and ExtraVEGANza.

Nathan Runkle with Mercy for Animals spoke first. Mercy for Animals believes that non-human animals have the right to live without suffering. Nathan shared a bit of his personal history about how he grew up and what influenced him to think about his relationship to animals. The question he posed is whether or not animals can suffer? He shared a story about piglet dissection at his high school, where the teacher who was a pig farmer, had killed piglets that morning, but one of the piglets was still alive. A student slammed it against a table to try and kill it and this led to a legal case against the teachers and student. The courts sided with the teacher/farmer, since “thumping” piglets is a normal practice.

He then gave examples of animal cruelty in the media, which focuses on treatment of cats and dogs. However, Runkle says that roughly 27 billion animals are abused each year in the US, with over 99% of the animals abused each year in the food industry. Fifty years ago most of the farms didn’t engage in abusive practices, but the industry still uses images of traditional farmers for slaughter houses/agribusiness farming. So why don’t we have laws that protect these animals? There is the US Animal Welfare Act, but that legislation does not considered farm animals as animals – so none of the violence done against them are considered animal cruelty. Mercy for Animals does grassroots work in Ohio and in Chicago, which includes leafleting, education, a library outreach campaign, marches, public demonstrations, and campaigns against the fur industry and circuses. They also run commercials on MTV, plus campaigns of animal rescue and civil disobedience. Nathan said the average person in the US eats about 2,174 land animals during their life. He concluded his talk with the importance of changing our diets.

Adam Durand with Compassionate Consumers spoke second. Compassionate Consumers is based out of Rochester, New York. They focus on chickens used for poultry and eggs. They documented the problem in their area in 2004 by going to egg farms owned by Wegman Food Markets. They did an animal rescue and produced a documentary to help educate the public. A local reporter got the documentary first and did a good story, according to Durand. The same day the story appeared, their new website was launched that had the video online. A month later the State Police began arresting and charging members who had participated in the animal rescue. They were charged with trespass, larceny and burglary. All of them were indicted by a Grand Jury and then offered plea deals, except Adam who went to trial. During the trial the State Police admitted that there was cruelty at the farm but that this was “not a problem as it was a business.” They got lots of media coverage and eventually Adam was sentenced to 6 months in jail plus fines. He then talked at length about his jail experience and how he had to compromise his ethical code while in jail, like serving eggs to the other prisoners. He mentioned the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), which considers animal rights activists as “terrorists” and how this act is really designed to intimidate activists from engaging in more substantive actions to stop animal cruelty.

Next on the panel was Nicole Matthews, with PETA. PETA has about 200 staff on the east coast. They spay and neuter dogs and cats, have a straw program that allows people to take bales of straw for outdoor dogs and a doghouse give-away program. Nicole then mentioned a recent court case that allowed chimpanzees to file a lawsuit against the industry, thus recognizing that these primates have rights as well. PETA does fundraising, education campaigns and a grassroots campaign, which is the area that gets most of the attention. They have had some recent victories. They also do PETA 2, which is a youth-based project. Nicole works on the KFC campaign and has been organizing to eliminate abuses including live scalding, life-long crippling, and debeaking. Chickens are not covered under legislation, like cows, for abuse during slaughter, so they have been doing demonstrations across the US and in many other countries to target KFC, the largest fast food chicken outlet. PETA also has a VegAdvantage campaign that tries to get restaurants to serve vegan options.

The last speaker was Harold Brown, with the Farm Sanctuary. Harold was a former cattle farmer. Harold says that all agriculture is a fallen structure, meaning that the way it is practiced is unsustainable. Humans have created mono-cultured animals to suit human needs. Harold says we see animals primarily as utility, not as living beings. Unlike the rest of the speakers, Harold addressed more philosophical aspects of the animal rights movement and larger policy issues that animal rights activists need to think about. He mentioned US trade policies such as NAFTA and CAFTA that have significant impact around agricultural practices. He cites the example of US corn being dumped in the Mexican market and how that causes displacement of small farmers many of which migrate to the US. He also said that these trade policies are resulting in companies exporting our factory farm practices around the world as well as foreign companies doing mega-farm projects in the US because the standards here are not as good as many European countries. Harold also addressed briefly that there are some successes in fighting CAFO (concentrated animal factory operations) construction around the country, but that much more needed to be done around these very fundamental issues.